Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Perfect Parent {It's Not Me}

I spend a lot of time thinking about the good and the bad that have come from the internet, especially in the world of parenting. When I was pregnant, I joined message boards that allowed me to ask my questions freely, and go through the process with people I have never even met, some of whom now are real life friends of mine. When I had a question about what to feed Molly in her baby days, or what constituted a serious fever, or how to remove a tick from her scalp, I could quickly pop online and get the answer. The internet is an amazing resource for healthy food, healthy choices, creative activities, and advice. I’ve learned things I probably would not have been aware of before, like what the “dirty dozen” is, the dangers of incorrect use of a car seat, and the amazing invention of absorbable toddler underwear. It is also full of judgment, perfection, and never ending advice on how to be the perfect parent, and run the perfect home, and make the most perfect decisions. I’ve learned how to be a better parent, but have become overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to be a perfect parent.

You know what I say? Perfect is crap.

Not only is perfect completely unattainable, it is unhealthy. I do not want to be a perfect parent.

I want my daughter to see me fail. Because when I fail, I learn from my mistakes, and she will learn how to do the same. Because SHE will fail and she will have to bounce back from her own failures. 

I want my daughter to see me get frustrated. Because it is ok to get frustrated. Because if you do not get frustrated, you hold it inside. Because when you hold it inside, you become a dark, unhappy person all the time instead of just those moments when you are feeling frustrated. Because she needs to learn how to deal with frustration, move on, and live her happy life.

I want my daughter to learn about balance. To be healthy – to eat fruits and vegetables…and also to eat chocolate. Please, eat chocolate. To be frugal – to save money, to have a savings account, to not live beyond her means…but treat to treat herself from time to time. To work hard – to not be lazy, to put effort into everything she do…but take time to relax, sit on the beach, in the backyard, or on the couch in front of a pointless television show.

I want my daughter to see me taking time for myself. If that’s a few minutes spent on my phone, that’s ok. If that’s a few minutes spent behind a closed door in the bathroom, that’s ok. If that’s a half hour out on a run, that’s ok. If that’s a weekend away with the girls, that’s ok. Independence is important. Independence is crucial. Seeing me, taking time for me, teaches her the importance of taking time for herself.

I want my daughter to know that perfect is not perfect. Perfect is not real. Life is amazing, and it comes with challenges and struggles. How you manage the challenges is truly what defines who you are as a person.

Parenthood itself, is a challenge. Please, do not hold yourself to the standard of perfection the world wide web seems to think you need to be at. Just be normal. Just be human. Just teach your children to see the good from the bad, and know that just by being YOU, you are perfect in their eyes, even when you don’t feel that way.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5 Minutes {Half Marathon Training Check-In}

Training is going slowly, but is going. The Couch to 10K program is a three day a week program. My crazy schedule only allows me to regularly hit the gym twice a week, three if I'm lucky, but I believe that twice a week is better than none a week, and although the training is slow I am amazed at the stamina I am building, and excited about the pounds that have started dropping.

I started my program four weeks ago today, and since day one, have been dreading week four of the program. Couch to 10K is an interval program, and each week of the program includes three days of the same interval training. Here's what I've done so far:

Week 1 - Run 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds, 20 minutes total
Week 2 - Run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, 20 minutes total
Week 3 - Run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, 18 minutes total

Today began week four - run 3 minutes, walk 90 seconds, run 5 minutes, walk 3 minutes, 22 minutes total. It's the five minutes I've been dreading since day one. Five whole minutes of running. To those of you who truly are runners, this is nothing to you, but for someone who has never ever been a runner in her entire life, five minutes of running sounds like five miles...it scared the crap out of me.

And I kicked it's ass.

There is something that happens when you are running and you know you are going to meet a milestone. It's like that first week, on the second day when I was in my last run and didn't stop once during the any of the intervals - I wanted to stop in the middle of the track and do cartwheels and shake my booty to the Rocky music in my head because I DID IT. That's how I felt today. That's how I felt after my first five minute interval when I was beaming like an idiot on the treadmill and the old lady next to me probably thought I was losing my mind. It's how I felt at the end of my second five minute interval, when even after my phone had gone flying off of the treadmill at the poor old lady (don't worry, it missed, and I seriously need some wireless headphones), and I didn't use that as an excuse to stop - rather, I just kept an eye on my timer clicking away on the phone on the floor, stupid smile still on my face.

That first week when I could barely run 60 seconds I wondered how I could ever run for five minutes.  Today I giggle that 60 seconds was so difficult for me. I still wonder how I will ever run for 13.1 miles, but I have to remember that small goals lead to big goals.

I can't wait until I can laugh out loud that I could only run for five minutes, but today I'm going to be pretty proud of myself for meeting this little-big goal.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sometimes I Cry

I don't think anything has ever made me cry as much as parenthood. There are the days when everything is so difficult, and all the rules and the listening and the patience have gone out the window. But what gets me the most, what really brings those tears to my eyes are the moments like this:

  • When she grabs my hand, just to walk across the living room.
  • When she stops me just before I leave her room at night to say "I love you, little guy"
  • When she hugs me so hard it almost hurts.
  • When she asks me to rock her and I feel her entire body relax.
  • When she sits in my lap and says "Sing to me mumma."
  • When she grabs my face (literally, grabs my face) and tells me she loves me.
  • When she sings me a song.
  • When that song is "Mumma, mumma, she's is awesome, she is awesome."
  • When she throws her arms around me and sways during Barney's "I Love You." (It's enough to make you forget you're watching Barney).
  • When I watch her play independently and use her imagination, making up stories about her toys.
  • When she sees me and runs, full force with her arms open wide to give me a big hug.
  • When she knows I have a headache and gently kisses my forehead and tells me "There mumma, you all better now."
  • When she is awake.
  • When she is asleep.
  • When she is.
I can't imagine my life without her.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So Then I Decided to Become a Runner...

There is only one reason I am writing this blog post. Not because I want to shout to the world that I've suddenly found this desire to go to the gym and start running, but because if I put it in words, and announce it to the world (it doesn't matter that only like 10 of you will read this), I will have to do it.

I've decided to run a half marathon.

I'll wait while you finish your giggling. No really, giggle away.

I've always hated running. HATED IT. We used to have to run for a full five minutes during cheering practice and I thought I was going to die. A few weeks ago though, I decided to join the gym. I had no intention of running at this gym, just simply using the elliptical and doing some weight training like I did before my wedding (and haven't done since). But one day the ellipticals were full so I thought I could probably suck it up and run a few laps around the track to warm up. It wasn't awful. I didn't want to die. I'll go so far as to say, I kind of liked it.

A few days later (with no further thoughts of running crossing my mind), I was stalking a friend of mine on Facebook (come on, you know you do it), and found her photos from the Disney Princess Half Marathon last year. It looked so fun and festive, and I realized that for some crazy reason, I wanted to be a part of it. Something weird happened in my weird little brain, and I decided to start training. I downloaded a version of Couch to 10K (actually it is 10K Free and it rules), and have started training. I'm on week two, so not far in, but for a girl who hated running, the fact that I have been fitted for running shoes, have purchased the appropriate running shorts, and have woken up many times in the past week excited to get to the gym and run, says a lot.

The Princess Half was on Friday and again the pictures were filling my newsfeed. I've got 361 days to be able to run 13.1 miles, and it just might take me that long to actually be able to do it. But now that I've announced it to the ten of you out there, my training is official. Feel free to send encouragement..and ice packs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Christmas Card that Never Was

Things were really crazy before Christmas. I wanted so badly to do a nice family photo for our Christmas card, but I quickly found myself running out of time and creative ideas. My best friend, and incredibly talented seamstress, Danielle from The Little Pink Peony had just made Molly a gorgeous infinity scarf, so I decided on a whim that a picture of my cutie kiddo in her new scarf and peacoat, would make for a perfect Christmas card.

I never ended up using the photo for the card, as I did find 15 minutes later on that week to set up a tripod and get a relatively normal looking photo of the three of us and our dog for a family picture. But I keep coming back to my five minute photo shoot with Molly in front of our neighbor's tree (because they totally would not have though it was weird to look outside and see me with my huge camera taking pictures of my kid on their lawn without permission) and laughing because the outtakes are so Molly being Molly, especially when she lets me take her photo.

Here are some of my favorite outtakes from our very quick December photo shoot.

The "Cheese" Face

The "Hey, What's Over There??" Face
The "I Can't Believe She is Making Me Wear This Dumb Headband" Face
The "Hey, Why the Heck Did We Leave that Gorgeous Light??" Face
The "You Know You Want to Give Me a Donut" Face
The "Pensive" Face
The "I'm Just Going to Stand Here and Be Cute" Face

And a few of my "normal" favorites. :)

I'm so lucky to have such an amazing kiddo, who is my most favorite model.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Showers - What Parents Really Need

I received a text this morning from a good friend. She is not yet a mom, and is heading to a baby shower this weekend. Her question was simple - "can I bring non-registry items to the shower?" and I probably gave her way more of an answer than she ever wanted. Last year I put together a post about what new parents should think about when creating their baby registry, and while this is similar, this post aims to help those going to a shower who are not sure what they really should purchase to help out the new family. I know I look at showers very differently post-baby than I did pre-baby and it would have been helpful to truly know what new parents need so I could give a gift that was both useful and fun.

1. Buy something off of the registry.
It seems to be common sense, but almost nobody does it. Babies are so much fun to buy for. I used to walk into Babies R Us with every intention of purchasing something off of the registry and immediately I would hear every stuffed animal, cute baby blankie, and rubber duckie call my name as I entered the store. It's important to remember that there is a reason for the registry. Yes, nail clippers and snot suckers are a bit on the boring side, but they are necessary for new little babies and all of those necessary items really add up for expecting parents. Even a few little things off of the registry coupled with something fun can really help out.

2. Buy something for toddlers.
It's amazing how quickly the infant stage goes by. (I'm writing that for those moms who are in week 3 and feel like they will never ever sleep again). I had no idea how soon we would need sippy cups, baby spoons, toddler toys, and 18 month clothing. If the parents are first time parents they may not see the value of "older" gifts, but as they are scrambling at the last minute because their kid is ready for cereal seemingly overnight, they will be incredibly grateful as they remember they are already set up for the next stage.

3. Buy diapers - the size after the next size up.
I'll preface this by saying it's really helpful to know what brand diaper the parents are going to use since this can be personal preference. It's also helpful to know if they plan to cloth or use disposables. While our intention was to cloth, it just didn't happen for us and I'll never forget the day that our daughter went up to size two and I realized someone had given us an entire box of size two diapers. It was like Christmas. Diapers are really expensive and the longer you can help those parents go without adding that to their shrinking budget, the more grateful they are bound to be.

4. Buy something for mom.
By the time the shower rolls around, it is very likely that mom is starting to feel it. Her back hurts, she's starting to not sleep well, she's tired. At my shower, in the midst of all the cuteness, I opened up a gift certificate for a pedicure. I almost cried. I needed something that made me feel human so badly, and it was one of my favorite gifts that day.

5. Buy books.
A kid can never have enough books. We started reading to Molly every night at two months, and even at that little age, a picture book could calm her down. (Her favorite was Black on White by Tana Hoban - seriously, she would stop mid-scream to see the pictures). Help the parents to be ready to introduce reading early by giving books that they can read to their baby from the start. Some other favorites of Molly's in the first year were Little Hands Love, and Rainbow Colors Peekaboo.

And what should you avoid purchasing? I don't want to use the word "avoid" because I think if you know the parents would love it or really need something, you should buy it! But be aware that they will be oversaturated with things like baby blankets, hooded towels (this was a staple gift of mine pre-kids!), socks, and clothing. And while I personally cannot resist throwing in a cute outfit, I'm always sure to add something that I know they need from their registry, or something that I know they won't get much of.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is the fact that you are there for the couple and showing love to their child that you haven't even met yet. It was amazing feeling like Molly was already loved by so many people, and none of us had even met her.

Happy gifting!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Me" Time

When you become a mother, the first thing to go out the window (besides your waist and ability to sleep past 5am), is your time to yourself. At first, losing your "me" time is a necessity. There is suddenly something else in your life that is more important than you. And while this will be true for the rest of your life, eventually, the need to take care of you returns.

As a mom, you are cursed with this phenomenon called "mom guilt." It's that awful feeling that you get when you take a shower and pray nobody comes in the bathroom, when you stay in bed five extra minutes even though the baby is awake, when you pee with the door closed and your toddler on the other side begging to join you, when you go to work and have to leave that amazing little person you love so much with a caretaker or family member, when you get frustrated because someone has been literally latched on to you all day long, when you decide to take the evening to watch tv instead of cleaning up the house and tackling the pile of laundry. You question any decision that allows you to take care of you, and if you're not careful, pretty soon, you forget how to take care of you all together.

Welcome to my life.

I have spent so much time over the past two and a half years taking care of everyone else. I spend my days running around like a crazy person, tackling multiple projects at once. I have had panic attacks as I worry that the 30 seconds I spend sitting on my bum could be better used sweeping the floors or just answering one more email. I've had my days planned down to the last second, stressing out if I take an extra two minutes in the shower, because then I need to retrieve those two minutes somewhere else in my day which means I probably should not take the time to make a proper lunch, and instead will quickly grab a slice of cheese and a quick drink of water. I've lost time just playing with my daughter because if those dishes don't get clean before she goes to bed the world just might end.

It's absurd. I'm losing my freaking mind. I'm over it.

I decided as we headed into the new year, that this would be the year I found my balance. It's a word that is coming up a lot lately. But more than finding my balance, it is about finding myself again. I've always been a bit uptight and a lot type A, but it's starting to cross a line. I'm missing out on the beauty of all of the amazing things around me - my daughter, my husband, my dog, my business, myself. To do this, there need to be rules (because I'm type A, and that just doesn't go away). Here is what I have been working on over the past month:

  • Kiss the mom guilt goodbye (well, almost). It is OK if my husband gets up with our daughter. It is OK if I pee with the door closed. It is OK if I need to go to work. It is OK to go to the grocery store by myself. It is OK to ask for help.
  • Take the night off. Last fall I found myself working 7 days and 7 nights a week. I never got to recharge, and I paid the price, and my family paid the price. I'm setting boundaries now while my work life is a bit slower in hopes that when my busy season picks up, a modified routine will be easier to adopt.
  • Go to the gym. I went to the gym for the first time in 5.5 years this week. It was amazing. I never really loved the gym, but now I'm realizing that at the gym, nobody needs me, except for me. I can't read my email. I can't make a meal. I can't clean the house. I can't edit photos. I CAN listen to some awesome music, read a book, watch a video, and visualize myself getting skinny. I CAN be in my own head for an hour and truly 100% focus on what I need to do for me.
  • Put down my phone. My phone plays such a huge part in feeling like I am being pulled in 100 directions. It beeps all.the.time. I'm going to tell you a secret - are you ready?? - if you don't look at Facebook for an hour, and if you don't respond to a client email in 5 minutes or less, nobody is going to die. True story.
  • Play. I've realized how much I tell my daughter "in just a second..." "after I do so and so.." "I just need to do this one thing and then I'll come play..." The thing is, none of the other things I have to do is as important as playing with my daughter. Plus, she makes me laugh so hard it hurts, and that is good for my soul. Playing with her is "me" time.
  • Hang out with my husband. We are both in graduate school. We are both parents. We both work full time. We have a million priorities, and for awhile we forgot to prioritize us. Spending time with my husband counts as "me" time. When we focus on us, and not the crazy that is all around us, we return to that silly happy we were when we first met 8 years ago, that silly happy we struggle to find between our insane class schedule, time with our daughter, house priorities, and work. When we are "on" he reminds me who I am and gives me the confidence to believe in myself as me and who I fundamentally want to be as a person.
It's a lot of goals, but with a big payoff. Moms out there - don't lose you. And when you realize it's happening, get it back. Because all of those things that pull you away from who you are are the things that need the awesome person you always have been. Take the time to find yourself because it IS about you, as much as you feel like it no longer should be.